Posted By: May 15, 2014


Allison Morris. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THERE are few people who get as excited about elections as journalists, possibly
even more than the candidates themselves. It brings out our inner geek -
percentages, transfer votes, trends, first-time voters, first-time candidates and on
this occasion we've even got a first-time party.

Before a single vote is cast the runners and riders will have been analysed, debated
and speculated on.

What will be the hangover from the union flag protests? Will loyalist areas with
traditionally low turnout show up at the polls? If so will the PUP, a party on the
slide since the death of David Ervine, benefit from ‘fleggate’ [ the protests and
riots following decision not to fly Union Jack every day ]? Will Alliance lose or
gain from Unionism's bully boy tactics over the past 18 months? How will Sinn Fein's
seemingly unstoppable vote fare post- Gerry Adams's arrest?

Can the SDLP halt the decline in the party's fortunes? Can the UUP survive at all
under questionable leadership and pressure from the might of the DUPs electoral

And what of 'Basil's babes'? Style over substance or a credible alternative?

The Party for people who define themselves as Northern Irish have yet to be tested
at the polls but hats off to NI21 for the most original and hilarious party election
broadcast, and I'm not referring to the comedy sketch but Tina McKenzie speaking
with my mum's best telephone voice. It was incredibly entertaining even if I've
still no idea what they stand for.

Bottom of the league goes to the SDLP with an election broadcast so dull and
uninspiring I wanted to wake myself up just so I could go back to sleep again.

But while newsrooms buzz with mounting election anticipation you'll find little
enthusiasm elsewhere in society.

Apathy seems to be the general feeling among a battle weary electorate.

My youngest daughter is a first time voter this year and her priorities are very
different from older and more cynical oul dolls like myself. She was just three when
the Good Friday Agreement was signed and along with her friends expects the benefits
of peace as a given not a privilege. Having only read about the peace accord in
politics class, they roll their eyes at the idea they should stop whingeing and be
grateful to inactive politicians because 'they helped deliver peace'. For them that
is about as impressive as a year-old download hit. While finding a way to address
the complex needs of victims and building a peaceful society is one of the serious
failings of the current Stormont administration it doesn't have much relevance for
the post ceasefire generation.

Their priorities are different and centred on employment, university fees and future

While equality is still an issue it's no longer the religious discrimination that
helped feed years of conflict but gender inequality in a part of Ireland where
decisions are still made by mainly male religious fundamentalists that impacts on my
daughter and her peers.

These are areas neglected by the current crop of politicians seeking her vote who
instead of inspiring her over the last electoral term appear to have regressed back
to 1990s.

As a result politics in the north is currently not issue but personality led, point
scoring and back biting, sound bites without substance. When it comes to the polls
many people are forced to settle for the least worst option or simply not vote at

Ireland has always been a nation of emigrants but the drain of young people of my
children's generation is reaching critical levels. Their friends speak of exciting
new lives, work opportunities and a life without sectarian squabbles and dinosaur
politics in Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand.

We're losing our children and once they leave few will return. Encouraging them to
stay requires parking up the politics of the flag and starting to pass legislation
on real issues to make life here more appealing.

We live in a beautiful little part of the world with much to be proud of, but that's
being sold short because of an inability to deal with legacy issues by people too
afraid to make a decision.

It is this impasse and a refusal to agree on a way forward for all victims, not just
those who fit a set mould, that is preventing real politics and the building of a
fair and equal civic society.

And that must change if we are to do right by the current generation of 16-25 year
olds who feel the only the future they have is at the end of a long plane journey.